Chief Constable reveals experienced officers are leaving because they can’t afford to stay in the job they love
Main article content
BJ Harrington QPM is the first Chief Constable outside the capital to speak-out on police pay.
Experienced uniformed officers and detectives have cut crime in Essex, but chief says they can’t afford to carry on for much longer without fair pay.
Police chief breaks silence after Police Federation in England & Wales shows police pay has fallen behind by 17% since 2000
“My colleagues are proud. They’re not the kind to complain but someone has to speak up for them and their families. "You can’t Taser the gas bill and you can’t handcuff the family food shop at Lidl. And you can’t arrest rising mortgage bills.”
Those are the words of Essex Police Chief Constable BJ Harrington, one of UK’s most experienced chiefs.
Chief Constable Harrington, who took up the post in 2018, was speaking to 83 new recruits as they made the attestation at Essex Police Headquarters today, Friday 17 March.
Mr Harrington has also revealed a growing number of officers are asking permission to take on second jobs simply to make ends meet while officers with years of experience and expertise have recently left the force, all citing financial reasons.
Among those are:
A newly-qualified Sgt-level officer with five years of proud service who had recently passed tough national investigation exams, only to resign within weeks.
A detective with two years’ experience who did everything to make ends meet - including sharing lifts to work, helping colleagues - who was tempted back to her old job selling double glazing and commission.
Another officer who could not afford the cost of the daily commute and resigned to work in the family restaurant nearer to home.
An officer, whose wife became pregnant, realised he could not afford to pay his bills and resigned to earn £250 a day as a scaffolder.
Mr Harrington has also taken the significant step of sharing images taken from an Essex Police station which show a foodbank being run by colleagues in order to ensure their peers can eat a hot meal at the end of their shift.
The chief has also revealed £248,000 has been paid out to officers by Benevolent Fund in last two years.
He said: “Seeing 84 new officers take their oath to protect communities across Essex is an incredibly proud moment.
“But there is no doubt it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep the best new talent.
“We follow the evidence in Essex Police and recent reports say: police pay has fallen behind that of other sectors by 17% since the year 2000 and this is the submission by Police Chiefs to the National Police Pay review body.
“I say: that’s too big a gap to simply ignore.
“I need the officers and staff across Essex to focus on helping people, keeping people safe and catching criminals. Not on whether they can afford to stay in policing.
“We have invested in our numbers, our force, our kit and capabilities and that is amazing.
“But you can’t Taser the gas bill. You can’t handcuff the family food shop and you can’t arrest the rise in your rent or mortgage. You need to be able to afford to do your job.
“The last police officer strike was in London in 1919, and no one who works at Essex Police would want to strike, even if they could – it goes against our values.
“But what we are seeing in Essex may be an even bigger issue – people are simply leaving quietly, they’re not complaining because they’re not the kind of people to make a fuss. They are moving on, silently, proud of their service but we simply have to stop this silent erosion of talent and that means I simply have to speak up while there’s still time to make that stop.
“How can it be right that you can earn £20,000 more selling Nissans in Romford than working as a PC? Or be a fitness instructor or personal trainer in Epping for the same money as a highly-trained police officer?
“That’s why I am speaking up now – we can recruit people from all walks of life, but if we lose great people then we will not be able to keep delivering the kind of service that Essex deserves.
“In the last year over 300 colleagues have asked permission to do second jobs or do unpaid work to improve their prospects on top of their day job with the force. That can’t be right
“On top of that, the force’s Benevolent Fund for officers has paid out £248,000 to help with financial hardship or distress amongst colleagues – it’s not all to do with money, but it’s a big part of it.
“There are foodbanks set up by colleagues to help each other out. We are a team, and I’m so proud to see that.
“But it also breaks my heart that people who have put themselves in harm’s way to catch the worst criminals are having to rely on their mates so they can go home to a hot meal at the end of their shift.”
Mr Harrington added: “I hope that by speaking out, it will cause others to take notice.
“It is precisely because officers do their duties without fuss or complaint that it is vitally important that I do make a fuss and that I do speak up.
“I say to our decision-makers, do not ignore the 17% pay gap. It’s an impossibly big gap to bridge if you’re an experienced officer who just can’t make ends meet.
“Please, end the silence on this issue in Westminster – and set out the plan to maintain the strength that forces have built up in recent years, or risk losing it.
“There is still time to fix this and allow policing to get on and invest in the experiences and skills we need in our teams to reduce crime and keep people safe.”